Arsene Wenger reflected on a “happy day” and the end of a “human adventure” after his final game as Arsenal manager, saying he still does not know what his future holds.
Wenger signed off with a 1-0 win at Huddersfield in his 1,235th and final game in charge and was given a loud ovation by both sets of fans before the game and in the 22nd minute of the match to mark his 22-year reign.
He leaves with three Premier League trophies and seven FA Cup wins, and in his final news conference repeatedly mentioned the “human” aspect of his legacy as well.
“It’s a special day. To keep my sense of humour, I should have announced every week that I leave because people have been so nice with me since I said that,” Wenger said.
“I would like to thank people here. Our fans. Huddersfield people have shown a lot of class. It was a great day, a happy day.
“It was a special day and the players wanted to win the game. Overall I would like to thank everybody. I had fantastic human experiences at the club, above the results. I believe that it was a human adventure for 22 years, and I wish everyone well and a lot of success to my club in the future.”
This has been Arsenal’s worst season under Wenger, with the club finishing sixth in the Premier League and without a trophy, and his decision to step down seemingly healed the growing rift between the manager and the supporter base.
Wenger walked over to the away section and bowed in appreciation before the game, then went back out to greet them again after the final whistle. He gave his red tie to a fan in the crowd and gave high-fives to the front row.
“It was spontaneous,” Wenger said about his bow before the game. “I know that we disappointed this season, the away fans. Many of them live the whole week, save money to travel up to games. It’s part of the respect we have.
“They had disagreements with me, which I can accept. But we had one thing in common — we love Arsenal Football Club. I wanted to share that with them today.”
Wenger also paid tribute to his legendary interwar predecessor Herbert Chapman, who many considered the greatest manager in the club’s history before the Frenchman arrived in 1996. Chapman left Huddersfield in 1925 to take over at Arsenal, and Wenger said that made Huddersfield a fitting place to end his reign.
“It worked out well because Herbert Chapman, possibly our greatest manager, came from here. So for me to come here on the last day had a special meaning,” he said.
“When you know the history of our club, for me it has a special meaning. In fact there was a photo in front of the dressing room where Chapman just did smile at me because he was on the photo.”
Wenger again declined to say what he intends to do in the future, having previously said he wanted to stay in management. He said he had received plenty of offers but another job in England remains unlikely as he could not imagine managing against Arsenal.
“I think I’m not ready for that at the moment. That would be very difficult, I think on that day I would stay at home,” he said.
“Yes, I had offers. But at the moment I did not even speak to anybody. I had many offers but I come out of such a long process. You can’t come out and the next morning say I go somewhere else. It’s impossible.”
Mattias is ESPN FC’s Arsenal correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @MattiasKaren.